The Unfinished Puzzle of Stephen Paddock
Stephen Paddock has made his name synonymous with violence and mystery by decimating concertgoers in Las Vegas and leaving no explanation for why. Nevertheless, we do have an overwhelming supply of clues, in the form of strange behaviors and strange numbers. He bequeathed to us a grotesque puzzle, seemingly unfinished and incongruous with the natural order of things. Perhaps his particular pathology will never truly make sense to us, the neurotypicals, and perhaps that was Paddock’s hope all along: to befuddle our normal, civilized minds from now to eternity.
For example: What is the deal with the number two appearing everywhere in Paddock’s story? Why did he book two hotel rooms? Why did he use two IDs, his own and his girlfriend’s? Why push two identical chairs together? Why smash two windows? Why did he fire two hundred rounds (two full clips) into the hallway at the casino staff? Why try to blow up two tanks of jet fuel at the airport? And why on earth did he end all of this madness with two isolated gunshots from a pistol?
Deeper into the rabbit hole we discover that Paddock was 64 years old. Divided by 2, that gives us the number 32. Is that why he booked rooms on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort?
“Perhaps his particular pathology will never truly make sense to us, the neurotypicals, and perhaps that was Paddock’s hope all along: to befuddle our normal, civilized minds from now to eternity.”
Now let’s note that Mandalay Bay has two similar-looking towers, one with 3 wings, and one with 2 wings. 3-2: the 32nd floor. Reverse the digits and make it 2-3: is that the 23 guns found in his room?
Two. Two digits. Two towers.
Now I’m thinking of the two Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11. Is it merely a coincidence that if you combine the name of the concert (Route 91) with the date (10/1), you arrive at 9/11/01? And what of the fact that subtracting 1 from 10 and adding 1 to 10 also results in 9/11? Frankly, this type of analysis makes me question my own sanity.
Follow the numbers, and they seem to indicate a reference to the Twin Towers and 9/11. But what can we make of that? Not much without venturing into an even more absurd realm of speculation.
So, then, where does an examination of the behaviors and characteristics get us?
Paddock was a retired accountant and a real estate investor. He was rich, he traveled frequently, and he stayed in nice hotel rooms, even though he lived in a modest house in a modest neighborhood. He had secret caches of weapons, of course, in his house, car, and hotel room. He had one brother with whom he was once close. He gave his girlfriend a very generous gift of cash in the end. But mostly he was a socially awkward loner.
Initially it was the portrait of a gun-loving accountant that reminded me of Ben Affleck’s character, Chris Wolff, in The Accountant. Then I watched the film again and started noticing other strange similarities in character and behavior. For example, Wolff, a high-functioning autist, is also a socially awkward loner, like Paddock. He too invests in real estate, owning business properties and a house. Like Paddock, he’s also rich, well-traveled, and fond of expensive hotel rooms, even though he lives in a modest house in a modest neighborhood. Wolff also has a brother with whom he was once close. And at the end of the movie, after killing a bunch of people, he gives his girlfriend an extremely expensive gift.
I began to wonder whether life imitated art in this case.
The more I watched the movie, the more I noticed even weirder, subtler connections between Wolff and Paddock. Paddock played video poker obsessively; Wolff likes paintings of dogs playing poker, and buys such a painting for his girlfriend. Paddock carried his own drink around to avoid having to tip casino servers; Wolff brings his lunch to work and drinks from an old, dented thermos which means something special to him. The Accountant takes place primarily in Chicago; Paddock’s first abandoned target was Lollapalooza–in Chicago. Both Paddock and Wolff took pills for a mental condition, used bipods on their rifles, wrote down bullet trajectory calculations, and utilized video surveillance which they installed themselves. Also, in the movie, a federal agent interrupts Wolff during one of his killing sprees, whereas a casino security guard interrupted Paddock; and both interrupters were left alive as witnesses to mayhem.
Perhaps the most interesting similarity, however, has to do with Wolff’s nightly ritual. At 9:40pm he sits down, plays very loud music, turns on a strobe light, and massages his leg with a wooden stick. He does this until an alarm goes off at 10:01pm. Paddock complained to the hotel about his neighbor’s loud music. And he later massacred concertgoers who were enjoying loud music and flashing stage lights. The date was 10/01. And the time he started his assault on the security guard was very close to (or precisely at) 10:01pm.
Follow the numbers, and they suggest a connection with the Twin Towers of 9/11. Follow Paddock’s character and behaviors, and they suggest a connection with Chris Wolff in The Accountant. Coincidence?
Here we have two strange threads, two weird lines of thought. Two unfinished puzzles, like the unfinished puzzle on promotional posters for The Accountant, premiered in Hollywood (10/10/16) nearly one year before the Las Vegas shooting (10/01/17). In the movie, Wolff explains that he likes dogs playing poker because it’s incongruous: dogs would never bet on poker. His autistic brain is fascinated by incongruity. Did Paddock also value this peculiar aesthetic quality? Did he paint his own incongruity: a slaughter without a motive?
Maybe we’ll never know.
Featured image by duncan c — Flickr.